April 25, 2008

Ribbon-adorned trees a somber warning in North Bay

Drive up North Main Street to North Bay and notice the lime green ribbons tied two days ago onto the big trees along the street. Then hang a right onto Vincennes Circle and you'll see dozens more ribbons; they're tied onto almost all the mature trees along North and South Vincennes, Nicolet Place, North Bay Drive and Hennepin Place.

The ribbons don't represent a political statement, or a feel-good comment about Earth Day. Rather, the village tree committee is making the point that the tall and mature trees -- those along the streets are mostly ash -- are old and dying. And even if they are healthy, they are living targets of the Emerald Ash Borer which is inevitably, inexorably making its way toward the village.

One day soon -- within the next ten years for sure, according to Lynne Fiser, a village trustee who serves on the tree board -- the nasty Asian bug will make an appearance here, and all those lovely 80-year-old ash trees will have to be immediately removed, and the image of this village's tree-lined streets will be changed forever...

Well, maybe not forever. The village is working with residents to prepare them for the emerald ash borer now, and to get the tree replacements under way. "The green tape was the idea of the tree board," Fiser says, recalling that it was first used by Stuart Road homeowners, trying to save their trees from a different predator -- a widened highway -- earlier this winter. "It's very evident that we're losing trees. There are broken branches, pieces falling off. It's sad," says Fiser. "We're going to lose the face of our village."

But just as most elm trees fell victim a decade ago, and two or three ash die in the 750-acre village each year now -- even before the ash borer arrives -- there is an alternative. The village -- it was just a farm in 1927 and originally part of Caledonia -- is working with residents to replace trees with healthier species: seven varieties of maple, oak, horse chestnut, American beech, crab apple, two types of linden, regal elm, honey locust.

"Any one tree going in is a little miracle," Fiser says ... and since last fall, about 50 new trees have been planted along North Bay's streets. The village is sharing the cost of the first tree each of the village's 97 homeowners plant streetside, meanwhile monitoring throughout the village to determine where trees should go and what types to put in.

The emerald ash borer arrived in the U.S. in the 1990s, and was first reported killing trees in the Detroit and Windsor areas in 2002. Since then, infestations have been found throughout lower Michigan (where it has destroyed more than 6 million trees), Ohio, northern Indiana, the Chicago area, Maryland, and recently in Pennsylvania. Just two months ago, Kane County, IL, cut down 100 infested trees.

Wikipedia, and other sites tracking the ash borers' march, says "the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture is attempting to exterminate all of these beetles on the continent, and has taken the unusual measure of destroying every ash tree within a half-mile radius of known infested trees. Southeast Michigan is a quarantine zone from which ash trees -- and even firewood -- cannot be removed.

"Michigan officials announced in 2005 that ash borer infestation had crossed the Straits of Mackinac and was in the Upper Peninsula. Wisconsin environmental officials considered it a grave threat and began preparations for surveys in northern counties. Currently twelve counties in Indiana are under quarantine," says Wiki.


  1. Just don't let the mayor drive by. He may determine they are 'ugly' and cut them down himself.

  2. It's becoming a trend, read tomorrow's Racine Jounal Times stories today on the Racine Post.